It’s important to keep your pet rat active. There are lots of pet rat enrichment activities to keep their minds keen and active. This is achieved not only through toys but also socially and keeping a fun and clean cage!
It’s good to give them a big enough cage where they can live, filled with colorful toys, tubes and climbing ladders that they can use to exercise. A clean cage is also a must, so they enjoy their home and feel safe and comfortable in it. Finally, having more than one pet rat is very important, so they have companions to play!
In this article, we will go over all these into more detail. Along with some examples of toys and tricks, you can use to play with your rodent friends, so keep reading.
Pet Rat Enrichment With Toys
There are many toys that can provide fun times for your pet rats. Not only that, but they will also develop a keen mind and have a healthier life.
Pet rats are very smart and need entertainment. The best way to do that is by giving them toys, games, and even puzzles! They like to work their little brains to get some tasty treats. In fact, having some treats laid out, easy to pick is no fun for our little rodents.
Going through challenges together will not only strengthen their bonds but develop their puzzle-solving skills. I know that at first hand, this doesn’t look like an important skill for a pet rat.
It’s not about how smart they become, but it’s to avoid boredom. Pet rats can become bored very easily and that’s why it’s necessary to introduce them to new and exciting games all the time!
They like the challenge, but once they solve the riddles, it becomes old news. This is why I always recommend having a big assortment of toys kept in a box somewhere.
Pick up two toys and add them to your rodent friend’s cage. After a week or two, take them out and trade with other different toys. If you keep rotating their toys and games, they won’t become boring to them.
Instead, they’ll see it as new challenges every time. It’s not like they forgot which toys they’ve played with. It’s like when we listen to the same song several times for a month. At some point, we’ll get tired of listening to it.
However, if we stay a month or two without listening to that song, and listen to it again, it will feel like it’s the first time! Or at least, we’ll notice we missed that song and it feel as good to listen as it was at the beginning.
The same goes for pet rats and their toys!
Now fret not, because I won’t be rambling about how good toys are for pet rats without giving you some good ideas, some of these are even very cheap and DIY!
Toys and Games for Your Pet Rats
Here’s a quick checklist of toys that you can have in your pet rat’s cage to enrich their life:
- Climbing Toys – things like wooden bridges that go from one side to the other, rope nets that they can climb and even tubes! This Prevue Hendryx Rope and Niteangel Rope Net on Amazon are perfect climbing toys. You can hang them anywhere you want in the cage and let your pet rats have some fun. These can even serve as different ways to get to different floors or points of their cage!
- Running Wheels – I feel that this one can be a hit or miss with pet rats. Usually, I recommend having a running wheel in the cage even before bringing your little friend home. This way they start being more curious about it and try to play with it from the very beginning. Once they get too old they might not find it as interesting. It really depends on the pet rat personality but I find that these make an exercise for them! Just be careful to buy a big running wheel like the 12” Kaytee Comfort Wheel on Amazon. Alternatively, you try a Flying Saucer like the Treadmill Wheel on Amazon. Generally, they’re safer for any kind of rodent than the wheels.
- Foraging Spots – This is an example of a DIY toy. You can pick up some toilet rolls, stuff them with treats along with inkless shredded paper and leave them around the cage to act as foraging spots! Just close the extremities of the toilet rolls by folding them and even poke some holes around the roll. This makes for an excellent puzzle for your pet rats and they’ll have delicious rewards once they figure it out!
- Digging Boxes – Following the example above, digging boxes are the next stage of treat foraging. Our girls love digging boxes and we often let them play with one every week. Just pick up a plastic or card box you have around. If you don’t have one, feel free to go to your local supermarket or other stores, they usually have no use for their card boxes and will give them to you for free. Fill the box with shredded paper, dirt or even sand (be sure it’s clean!). Add some treats for them to find! You can even add some small stones to make it more of a challenge.
- Balancing Branches And Bridges – if you live near the woods, try to find thick branches that you can add to the cage or even their playground. Pet rats are very good at climbing and balancing, so make them use these skills. It’s a fun and good exercise for them! Alternatively, you can buy wooden bridges like the Niteangel Suspension Bridge on Amazon. These are only made for hamsters, but you can always buy two and join them so they’re wide enough for an adult pet rat!
- High And Far Places To Jump – add platforms to your pet rats cage so they can jump from on point to the next. Having different ways of connecting the cage floors is important so that your pet rat makes a game out of moving around it. Another way to stimulate your pet rat to jump from one point to another is by teaching them to! Teaching tricks is a great way to keep your little friend entertained. You can start by teaching them to jump into your hand! Check out this awesome video by Shadow the Rat where you can learn how to teach this trick.
- Gnawing and Chewing Toys/Food – This one is very important! Not only it keeps your pet rat entertained, but healthy as well. Pet rat’s teeth never stop growing, so it’s important that they use them and chew on things all the time. Keep some chewing toys around the cage. Usually, rabbits and other rodent chewing toys are good, but there are some for pet rats as well, like the Kaytee Perfect Chews (link to Amazon). As for food, besides their usual pellet mix, rice treats like the Ware Manufacturing Rice Pops also on Amazon are perfect for any rodent!
- Nest Building Supplies – Pet rats like to have their cage organized and everything in the right place. Provide enough bedding material for them to have safe and comfortable places for nesting. Things like inkless shredded paper, pieces of old fabric, aspen shavings and even pellets are great since they can move these around and won’t become smelly too easily. I do go over several bedding options that you can choose from my Safe and Cheap Bedding article. It’s a very complete guide so be sure to take a peek at it!
For a bigger list of toys and places where you can buy them, check out my article on the best pet rat toys for your pet rat! I did mention quite a lot of toys here but believe me, there’s so much more you can try and give to your little friend to play with.
Socially Engaging Your Pet Rat
Pet rats need to be engaged socially on a daily basis. This is so they can keep a keen healthy mind and not fall to depression.
Depression is very common in pet rats if they’re left alone for long periods of time, and it might even shorten their lifetime, so pay attention to your pet rat!
First of all, you should avoid getting just 1 pet rat. You must always get more than one or they’ll not have a member of their species to interact with. I talk more about this in my “How Many Pet Rats Should You Have” article, so you can read more about it there.
Simply put, pet rats are very sociable and the interaction we might have with them is not enough. After all, we’re not of the same species so it’s more than natural that they need a pet rat companion.
We also tend to have different schedules. Pet rats are nocturnal. When they’re the most active, we’re probably asleep. Some pet rats might adjust their schedules to ours, but still, we don’t have the time to play or keep them company all the time.
So I always recommend getting at least 2 pet rats of the same sex. This way, they’ll have each other when you’re not home or busy with other household tasks!
Secondly, be sure to spend one or two hours of your day with your pet rat. Play with them and teach them tricks! They love this and it will keep them engaged and like you more.
It is important to create a bond with your pet rats and since they’re very sociable I can guarantee you that they’ll love the time they spend with you! Take them out of their cage into a playground area and sit with them.
Teach them tricks so they interact with you. I wrote an article with 9 Pet Rat Tricks to teach your pet rat. These are really fun for you and your little friends so I really recommend them.
Start with teaching them to come to you, it’s the easiest one and very useful! Then as they get used to learning, go for more challenging tricks like teaching them to jump and others.
Build trust with your pet rats and you can keep them socially enriched, prolonging their life and mental capabilities.
Environmental Enrichment For Your Pet Rat (Cage and Room)
Finally, we come to the environmental enrichment part of this post. This is just as important as the other two. Just like us, pet rats have preferences on how to have their home organized.
They’re very clean, so they don’t like leaving in a dirty environment. Your pet rats will actually become quite nervous if their cage isn’t cleaned often. The smell will make them feel very uncomfortable and they’ll stop using their bathroom and sleeping places.
The place where their cage stays is also very important. They’re very sensitive to bright lights and to too high/low temperatures.
Since all we want is for our rodent friends to be happy and comfortable, here’s what you need to pay attention to:
- Keep the cage cleaned – Like us, pet rats don’t like to live in dirty environments. They’re actually very clean, contrary to popular belief. Our rodent friends will spend a good chunk of their day grooming themselves and each other. For that reason, it’s important to keep their cage clean. We usually do a daily cleanup of their litter, along with some of the bedding and then do a deep cleaning of the cage once per week. This deep cleaning includes washing the cage, changing the whole bedding and litter contents. If we’re using card boxes for them to play or sleep, we’ll also take those out and replace them with new and clean boxes. Other sleeping places, like the pods are also thoroughly washed and dried so we can put it back in the cage. Things like toys and hammocks should be washed once or twice a month.
- Fill the cage with toys and places to hide! – Pet rats love to hide in different spots, taking naps and they enjoy colorful toys. They can actually see in ultraviolet, so this is something that really enriches their minds. Try to have more than one toy in the cage, as well as tubes so they can play with. As for hiding places, they’re nocturnal and will sleep most of the day, so it’s more than natural that they want to find a dark and safe place to sleep. Pods like the Lixit Critter Space Pod over on Amazon is a great example and can fit more than one pet rat. Other than that you can add card boxes and hammocks that they can use to sleep or even hide food or threats!
- Keep the cage in a warm room – 25º degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) is the perfect temperature to have your pet rats in! Generally speaking, a mild temperature is enough. If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for them and the same goes for warm temperatures. So try to keep them in a place where the temperature doesn’t change a lot. Remember to also give them enough bedding so they can keep themselves warm where they sleep. Other than shavings, pellets and shredded paper, you can also add pieces of old fabric so they can nest it however they want.
- And keep the cage in a quiet place! – There are 3 elements to have into attention when choosing the place where you keep the cage. One: be sure the cage stands in a place where it’s not hit by direct light. So try to avoid leaving it right next to the windows. Pet rats are very sensitive to bright lights and the cage might also become too warm. Two: Try to have the cage in a room where you’ll spend most of your time. That way you’re always keeping them company and it’s easy to reach and interact with them! And, finally, three: keep the cage in a quiet place. Pet rats are also very sensitive to sudden and loud noises, so be sure they’re in a place where that never happens.
All in all, having a clean cage, lots of toys and social interaction with both you and their rodent companions is all you need to keep your pet rats with a healthy mind!
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